Willard Elementary School

301 Madre St. Pasadena, CA

PROJECT DATE: 2021 – In Progress

Willard Elementary School is a 6.4-acre campus in East Pasadena. The campus is located in the Rio Hondo Watershed, a sub-watershed of the Los Angeles River Watershed, which ranges from the foothills of the Angeles National Forest to the Pacific Ocean. The initiative focuses on improving three acres of the campus, including creating a 0.85-acre public nature discovery trail in the space in front of the school along Madre Street and Del Mar Boulevard, enhancing Willard’s connection to the Angeles National Forest, a visible backdrop less than 2.5 miles north of the site. The campus faced major issues with drainage, flooding, and vector control. To address these, bioswales and rain gardens were integrated throughout the campus to improve drainage and manage stormwater more effectively.

Public Nature Discovery Trail

An ADA-accessible, 0.85-acre public nature discovery trail was created along the expanse of the front entrance. The entire length of the path is composed of pervious pavement, which aids in water capture, groundwater infiltration, and aquifer recharge. The trail is surrounded by native shrubs and dozens of new trees, enhancing the biodiversity on campus.
The nature loop weaves through various campus areas, with pathways along publicly accessible frontages on Del Mar and Madre, then interconnecting with campus and kindergarten play areas, and extending into the community.

Kindergarten Area

The kindergarten area, located in the southeast corner of the campus, experienced severe flooding that disrupted movement and safe play. To mitigate the flooding issues, we removed a swath of asphalt on the north side of the kindergarten courtyard area and implemented a series of rain harvest boxes. Additional room was made by removing a grass area in the central part of the courtyard and creating a depression with more rain boxes.

We then outfitted that area with wood chips and boulders to create an outdoor classroom, as well as an area where kids can incorporate the boulders into their play. Rain harvest boxes were also installed underneath a swingset on the west side of the courtyard. The existing kindergarten tricycle track was redesigned, adding pervious pavement for further stormwater management and applying a new layer of paint to give the area more visual appeal.

Interpretative Signage

An important part of our green school projects is the interpretive and wayfinding signage and exhibits designed exclusively for each location. The multilingual signage panels locate the school within the greater watershed and present the unique perspectives of the location’s cultural and natural history. The displays describe the bioswale, native plants, pollinators, flora and fauna, and include information about native plant heritage and indigenous cultural uses of plants. The Willard Elementary School Watershed Discovery Campus includes tactille and Braille signage.

Learn More About our Green Schools Educational Signage

Community Outrech

The design of the Willard Elementary School Watershed Discovery Campus emerged from working closely with the principal and key staff, including teachers, coaches, and parents. We also collaborated with Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Landscape Architecture in developing the landscaping project. Additionally, our species list evolved through cooperation with the 22-year legacy landscape architect of the Pasadena Unified School District, incorporating feedback and dialogue from Amigos staff.
A significant number of trees and shrubs are being planted during Emerald Necklace Watershed Stewardship Events by volunteers. A big thank you to all our volunteers!

This project was made possible by:

Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection